Diary Of Making A Movie #6 – To Improv Or Not To Improv?

01.26.17

35 pages into the feature script. Got a pretty good handle on the structure of the film. We’re going to have other life coach characters, each with their own specific vibe. Then it’s all going to build up to a big set-piece at the end of the film, where everyone comes together.

Now the big question:

How Much Scripting To Do?

One of the big inspirations for this movie is Christopher Guest’s mockumentary style of filmmaking. Spinal Tap, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and so on.

Christopher Guest’s films are basically ALL improv, with an outline. He and his co-writer, Eugene Levy, will make an outline and give notecards to the actors with some basic info. Then they just start improvising. It definitely makes for interesting moments and a natural way of speaking.

Diary Of Making A Movie 6 To Improv Or Not To Improv

The Upside Of Doing A Mostly-Improvised Film

If I decide to go the improv route, I can just focus on doing the outline and detailed character description. That will shorten the writing process from months to weeks, maybe even days.

Plus, all of the actors I have in mind are solid improvisers, so there will be plenty of funny moments. Plus, I won’t have to worry as much about being in “director” mode and making sure I got what we needed from each take. We can just have fun and sort through it later.

 

The Downside Of Doing A Mostly-Improvised Film

An all-improv movie will be a nightmare to edit. Even with great improvisers, we’ll have to shoot 3-5x as much footage just to make sure we have the right scenes for the movie. I’m not sure if there will be enough time

I’ll have to sit with the editor almost the entire time to pick apart the plot and develop a through-line. The time I saved on the writing process will all go to the editing. And if something doesn’t work? We have to re-shoot or just suffer the consequences.

The Middle Path

Who says it has to be one or the other? There’s no reason I can’t have a solid script and leave some room for improv. As long as we can get the scripted scenes first, it will be great to play around and fill in any gaps. I’ll just have to make sure we’re on schedule, but that shouldn’t be too difficult with the number of setups we’re doing.